Wine and some other drinks of Tour de France 2016. Stage 9: Vielha Val d’Aran — Andorre Arcalis

Christ Froome as stage winner and in yellow, maybe a bit earlier thatn i had planndet. We are at the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. We start in Spain and end in Andorra. Today iare more mountains, with a top finish at a high category climb in Anodorra. There are a little more then tow minutes between leading Chris Froome and Richie Porte as no 18, and another minute down to Alberto Contador. We have to expect many attacks during today’s stage.


We are now on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, and end in Andorre.

The French and the Spanish side of the Pyrenees are quite different. On the Spanish side, it comes warm and dry air from the south.  As mentioned yesterday, this results in a foehn wind in the area around Pau.

On the French side, the southern part of Massif Central (Montagne Noir) and the Pyrenees constitutes a tract, which concentrates the often cool and humid air from the Atlantic Ocean.  When this air gets into the trackt, it is pressed upward. The air cools down, and if you have not forgotten everything from the physics classes, you know that when the air cools down, it cannot holde as much humidity as warm air. The humidity condences, and we get rain and fog. My impression is that there is a lot of fog and rain on the French side of the Pyrenees.

I think this sattellite photo from NASA illustrates the topography and the tract between the Massif Central and the Pyrenees.

I have to admit that I do not know Spanish wine very well. We are pretty high up in the mountains, away from the most well known Spanish wine districts. The closest wine district seems to be  Coster del segre. But if I interpret the maps correctly, the stage goes north of at least the important parts of this district.

According to  Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, the grape  Granacha (which I usually designate with the French name  Grenache, despite it being an originally Spanish grape) and Macabeo a good potential in this area. But they are mainly growing Tempranillo and international grape varieties.

The capital of Andorra, Andorra la Vella, gives the impression of being a huge duty free store. As a small country between two large countries, it can live with low taxation, as long as people from other countries are spending a lot of money and pumping up the tax basis. After the rest of the Western world have imposted restriction on smoking and advertising of tobacco, Andorra is marketing and selling cigarettes from palls. At least, they did the last time I visited the country in 2010. If my memory is correct we were offered free samples of cigarettes.


To be honest, I do not find Andorra la Vella a very exiting place to visit. But the Pyrenees are high and steep, and difficult to cross. Andorra is in a pass where it is possible to cross the Pyrenees. When I have been in Andorra, it has mainly been because it is one of few routes between Spain and France. But the first time I was there, it was more out of curiosity. I am fascinatied my these micro countries. In a Europe where the big countries have been more or less constantly at war with each others for several hundreds years, how have these micro countries survived withoug being destroyed and absorbed by the bigger countries?

Andorra has survived as a state thanks to its strategic location. Neither Spain nor France could accept that Andorra should be part of the other country. It was established as a coprincipate, governed by two princes, one being the Bishop of Urgell in Spain, the other the President of France. I once read that a night with the most beautyful girl in Andorra was part of the remuneration to the two princes. If this is still upheld, I do not know. Some years ago, a sort of democracy was was intorduced in Andorra. But I do not know to much of its constitution.

Many people are going on day trips from Spain or France to Andorra for shopping. The Custom control when entring Spain or France is rather strict. If you are not Spanish or French, the custom officers are not very interested. But you have to que up with all the others before you get to be asked by the custom officer. If you travel this time of the year, which is the season for summer vaccation in Norway, it is very out of season in Andorra. If you are travelling between France and Spain passint through Andorra, you can get good hotels at a very low price. If we go this way, we travel to Andorra in the afternoon, stay over night there, moving out the next morning. Then we avoid the long ques.

In addition to duty free shopping, “private banking” is an important business in Andorra. It is located in a pass, with steep hills on both sides, making it a place for alpine skiing.

The picture below is form where today’s stage ends: At Arcalis.


It is rest day after this stage. I am not sure that I will find Andorra the most interesting place for a rest day. We will have a rest day too.

I will spend the rest day driving to the Washington Dulles International Airport, and fly back to France in the afternoon. I hope I will be in our flat in France in time to see the final part of the next stage.

Tour de France 2016

Tour de France
Giro d'Italia


Giro d'Italia


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